Walter LippmannWalter Lippmann, (1889-1974) American writer, journalist, and political commentator

Walter Lippmann Quote

“It is the very essence of despotism that it can never afford to fail. This is what distinguishes it most vitally from democracy. In a despotism there is no organized opposition which can take over the power when the Administration in office has failed. All the eggs are in one basket. Everything is staked on one coterie of men. When the going is good, they move more quickly and efficiently than democracies, where the opposition has to be persuaded and conciliated. But when they lose, there are no reserves. There are no substitutes on the bench ready to go out on the field and carry the ball. That is why democracies with the habit of party government have outlived all other forms of government in the modern world. They have, as it were, at least two governments always at hand, and when one fails they have the other. They have diversified the risks of mortality, corruption, and stupidity which pervade all human affairs. They have remembered that the most beautifully impressive machine cannot run for very long unless there is available a complete supply of spare parts.”

Walter LippmannWalter Lippmann
~ Walter Lippmann

Ratings and Comments

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Anonymous, Australia

' outlived' more like destroyed or taken over and replaced all other forms of government in the world with its constant invasion of countries who want to over through a corrupt government ie vietnam

J Carlton, Calgary

What do we do when the "spare parts" are as old and worn out as the ones in use? When all the eggs are in one basket even with a second party...what then?

Mike, Norwalk

The entire sentiment is a fraudulent dichotomy. It is formulated from superficial perspectives, drawn from emotional prejudices and incorrect assumptions,and based on false definitions. Democracy by its very essence is despotism. Democracy and despotism are synonyms. The 2 party system is 2 sides of the same despotic coin.

Jim k, Austin

Just what you'd expect from a far left liberal.

Waffler, Smith

The guys above obviously prefer despotism and absolutism. Their incapacity to discuss, analyse and yes think, about things shows in their thumbs down approach to this wonderful quote. Saddams's Iraq is the perfect proof of the accuracy of Lippmans analysis of democracy versus despotism.

J Carlton, Calgary

And once again the hysterical left prefers fantasy to reality. Never forget Saddam was financed and endorsed by the US and its wonderfully noble democratic system.

D, Fort Worth

Except that the despots have learned how to foil democracies. They have used power and control of media and minds of people to create two political sides of the same coin. After raping working people with the Republican party, they elect the Democratic (same) party to continue the raping.

Elisabeth, Astoria, NY

The party one belongs does not matter to the sense of what one says. The writer's words make sense. Even if the author meant that the other party - not his - is the despots' party, his quotation does not say that. Despotism does take place when there are no strong opposition. So true his words are that right now, while we comment on the author's quotations, the "substitutes" are getting off the bench and ready to go out on the field and carry the ball. The other way around also often happens. And that is the beauty of a true Republic.

E Archer, NYC

This may be the theory, but in a '2 party system' the 2 parties are but 1 party designed to monopolize government and keep it beholden to a financial elite ruling class.

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  • Reply
    abby    2/16/24

    They are failing, however the dem party took the pages from Mao and Lenin and other bad actors before beginning to fail so the 'other' party cannot do anything to stop the fail. Tighten your grip on the handlebars of the bicycle. You don't want to lose yourself in the muck. We are on the Road to Serfdom...censorship, communist education in the schools...immorality...infected is going to get much army is crossing the boarder...

    Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

    Democracy is a positive and growing process, and the elimination of the political party antics would make it more efficient and effectively grow. Party antics hold it back. In democracy everyone has a voice. This idea of take your issue to your representative actually retards the messaging. Democracy demands the individual to stand before the world and state their case. Take on the world. Socialism is the challenge of social abilities to create a democratic voice.

    • Reply
      AA    2/22/24

      Perhaps it would just be an expedient manner to eliminate half of the population in 1 fell swoop?

      Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

      Mr/Mrs AA, this resulting lurching pattern would lead to the termination of the entire species, quite an illogical waste. Socialism is the challenge of social abilities to create a respect for life.


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